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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  May 15, 2018 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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senators. if you look closely, you'll notice no women. all dudes. the entire representative corps of represented officials in pennsylvania all men. that might be about to change there is a bunch of women in pennsylvania who ran in primary elections tonight. three of them ran unopposed in their primary race and will go on to the general election. we'll wait to see in terms of what happens in the general election. a lot of these victors tonight were just in the primaries. but regardless, what has been basically a fraternity in pennsylvania statewide elections has just been crashed by at least some women. hope that doesn't make pennsylvania dudes too uncomfortable. that does it for us tonight. we'll see you again tomorrow. now it's time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. last night michael avenatti was on this program talking about what you were talking about
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earlier in your hour about the meeting at trump tower that he had revealed images of who was there december 2016, and he asked that question in a tweet about why was ahmed al rumaihi meeting in trump tower. he told us what he could about it. and i asked him, when are we going to know more about this meeting? and it answer was soon. and i pressed him. and he said soon is soon. so it turned out, soon was today. >> yeah, we have picked up some really interesting elements of this story today. >> yes. i mean, the sort of lurid and provocative allegations in this store were oh, interesting. lurid and interesting allegations. maybe those are publicity stunts. maybe they are wild claims denied by everybody involved that is just designed to make us pay attention for a second. when we got confirmation this
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afternoon of the qatari official being yeah, that was me. i was there to meet with trump transition officials, that all of the sudden made this a very serious story. >> and they were trying to deny it yesterday. not exactly denying it, but not confirming it. and by the way, thank you for that lesson about that basketball league. because i didn't know any of the rules or -- all i knew is ice cube is involved. that's all i knew. and now i know everything. >> i'm here to help. >> thank you, rachel. >> thank you, lawrence. well, the close of business today in washington was a moment of truth for the president of the united states. actually, the deadline for filing financial disclosure forms has been a moment of truth for all presidents since 1978 when the ethics and government act first required presidents to file financial disclosure forms. for donald trump, the deadline for filing a presidential financial disclosure form is not so much a moment of truth as a moment to choose. a moment to choose which story to tell about many questionable
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financial entanglements, including possible violations of the emoluments clause of the constitution in which the president has used his office to enrich himself through his private businesses. but this year the most high profile story and possibly the most immediately incriminating story that donald trump has to choose to tell in his presidential and financial disclosure form is the stormy daniels story. so far the president himself has told only one story, the air force one story where the president said he didn't know anything about his personal attorney michael cohen paying stormy daniels $130,000 during the presidential campaign to not tell her story about having sex with donald trump. then the president's new tv lawyer rudy giuliani changed all that. changed that story. and in the new giuliani versions of the story, donald trump did
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know about the payments to stormy daniels and ruud contradicted michael cohen's claim that he was not reimbursed for the payment. >> that was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way i would do out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, it doesn't matter. that president reimbursed that over a period of several months. >> giuliani gave varying accounts of how michael cohen was reimbursed. but the reimbursement amounted to donald trump paying back michael cohen in installments the way you would pay off a loan. all of which should be revealed on the financial disclosure form that president trump filed with the office of government ethics tonight, right on time. the office of government ethics tweeted today the president filed his annual financial disclosure report with oge and it is currently under review. and that means we are now only a
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day or two away from reading in donald trump's financial disclosure report the story he has now chosen to tell about the stormy daniels money. and that story might be donald trump knows nothing about it, and nothing about it appears on those forms. walter shaub, the former head of the government office of ethics wrote in usa today, quote, that president trump has to disclose all liabilities that exceed $10,000 at any time during calendar year 2017, even if he repaid them later that year. that includes his debt to michael cohen for the $130,000 payment that michael cohen made in october 2016 to adult film star stormy daniels. walter shaub also points out that the president might have to admit his previous financial disclosure form was wrong. quote, he left out the daniels related debt in the financial
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disclosure report he filed on june 14th, 2017. disclosing it now means acknowledging that he should have disclosed it last year. of course $130,000 is the smallest amount of dirty money suspected of floating around trump world. on sunday, the president tweeted that he was suddenly worry ied about preserving jobs in china. yes, china. not one of those midwestern states that have lost jobs to china, as donald trump sees it, but preserving jobs in china. and that's after running a presidential campaign that was all about taking jobs away from china and bringing them to the united states. the president tweeted president xi of china and i are working together to give massive chinese phone company zte a way to get back into business fast. too many jobs in china lost.
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commerce department has been instructed to get it done. so the federal government has not been instructed to clean the water in flint, michigan. but it has been instructed to save jobs in china, save jobs at a giant phone company in china. three days before the president tweeted his sudden concern the chinese government tweeted a deal to $500 million in government loans to a theme park resort in indonesia which of course an afp report includes, quote, trump-branded hotels, residences, and a golf course as well as other hotel shopping and residential developments. the president's sudden sympathies for the chinese phone call zte come only weeks after the commerce department cut off
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zte's supply of american parts and components because zte violated u.s. sanctions on sales to north korea and iran. today in a hearing on capitol hill, bill eveaevenino told the senate intelligence committee that the u.s. intelligence view's of zte technology views them as a national security risk. >> 2012, the house intelligence committee issued a nonclassified bipartisan report on national security issues posed by the chinese telecom companies. and one of them was zte. the report concluded that the risks associated with zte's provision of equipment to u.s. critical infrastructure could undermine american national security interests. do you agree with that
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bipartisan report? >> i do. >> joining our discussion now, david frum, the author of "trumpocracy: the corruption of the american public." malcolm nantz is with us, author of "the plot to hack america." and joined by tim o'brien, author of "trump nation: the art of being the donald." tim is an msnbc contributor. malcolm, i want to start with you on this issue of zte, this chinese telecommunications company and the president's sudden concern with preserving and building jobs in china, something i don't think we heard about on the campaign trail. >> well, it's utterly dumbfound for me. zte is an organization that has been implicated in breaking sanctions with north korea and iran by transferring modern technologies over to those countries, particularly in their communications.
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the united states department of defense has banned zte's created telephones because they believe that they could but surped by the intelligence agencies of china and they can actually be turned into pocket-sides surveillance systems inside u.s. military bases and against u.s. military and intelligence personnel around the world. i mean, it's the best of all worlds. why president trump would be actually going out to say that they were going to create an agreement to save jobs of this sanctions busting spying agency is beyond me. >> david frum, how about a $500 million loan backed by the chinese government that assists the development of a trump property in indonesia? might that be an explanation? >> that might be. i can think of three explanations for why the administration is doing what they're doing. one is the corrupt one that you just pointed to. there are two others that are less corrupt but in their own way equally bad. donald trump may be trying to beat back chinese
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countersanctions against america's trade actions against china. remember, chinese have very cleverly countered this reprisals against agricultural districts. donald trump discovering that trade wars are not good and nod easy to win, may cost him seats in a tough republican year. so he may be looking for some big way of settling these trade disputes that gets china to stop its retaliation. and a third possibility is that they are looking for -- the trump administration is being played in the korea diplomacy, but it likes to think that it is the player. and president trump may imagine that he has somehow building a coalition against north korea that will give him the nobel prize that president obama has and that he wants. >> tim o'brien, you wrote what is now one of many books, including other authors about donald trump. but you're one of the first and donald trump sued you because he didn't like the way you told too
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much of the truth about his business and how much money he was not worth. and of course you won that suit easily. you've studied the trump businesses. you've studied trump's incentives and how he behaves in relation to incentives. when you see the president saying suddenly that we have to preserve jobs in a chinese company, and this is three days after a trump project has been supported by a half a billion dollar loan from a chinese government-controlled bank, is there anything about that that makes you a little bit suspicious? >> alarms go off. i have to say, alarms go off. think about it. it happens on a sunday afternoon by all accounts. he suddenly hits twitter, and he is reversing what had been a very measured and thought through process to sanction zte and essentially put 80 it of business. i think david and malcolm have both hit on some of what i think are what caused the president to change his mind. i think the common thread in all
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of it is trump's own self-interests, as it always, and china. i imagine it was an amalgam nation of three things. he realized he needed chinese leverage to get a deal with north korea. he realized if a trade war with china did heat up, china was going put pressure on districts in the united states trump needed in 2020 and beyond. and last but not least, it probably hit his pocketbook. he's got a deal in indonesia with one of the biggest developers there, hare obedobie, and trump's name is on the golf course associated with that project. i think all of this came together in his mind, and he abandoned policy. he abandoned strategy. and he tweeted that he had changed his mind. >> malcolm, the chinese have been studying donald trump and doing a crash course and studying donald trump since he became a front-runner in the presidential campaign. and so they no doubt have a book on him and a book on potential
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incentives, including his businesses around the world. >> yeah, i believe that, absolutely. you know, in the intelligence community, we work up these biographical dossiers and psychological profiles of national leaders. donald trump's has to be a multivolume set. but in terms of his biography. on the other hand, how to handle donald trump is quite simple. it's probably a one page, one paragraph document that says bribe him. he is susceptible to money and he is susceptible to blackmail with that money because he -- you know, i really believe that he thinks that the united states is trump incorporated by extension. and by cutting this bizarre deal with zte, as david had said, there are other benign considerations and then there are possible malicious considerations. but no president of the united states should ever, ever be caught in a situation like this
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where it appears that he is giving a quid pro quo and making money for not only another government and its intelligence supporting agency, but himself. >> we're going hear more talk of possible bribery in the next segment. this is all started by michael avenatti's tweets this weekend, which have now developed into a larger story, and there is a kuwaiti official, unnamed kuwaiti official telling the daily mail more about exactly that kind of behavior. but david frum, i want to switch now to the president's financial disclosure form in which he's going to have to choose some version of the stormy daniels story. and if there is nothing about the stormy daniels money in the president's financial disclosure form, that would indicate that he's sticking with the air force one story that he knew absolutely nothing about the payments. >> well, i worry this may turn out to be less dramatic and satisfying than a lot of people expect, because those disclosure forms are very good at capturing
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personal obligations. they're less good at capturing trusts and upstream corporations. so one of the questions that we're all going to wonder about i think in 24, 48 hours is did the money flow through donald trump's personal checking account or was it structured through a series of other institutions. and then these forms which are created in the 1970s for a less plutocratic world, they may not be adequate to deal with the kind of kazakh, uzbek baku-like regime we're now governed by. >> tim, walter shaub who has been in charge of the forms for the last few years until he quit last year, he insists that these forms will catch exactly what we're talking about here, as described by rudy giuliani and michael cohen. michael cohen said he was not reimbursed by the -- any trump company or the campaign. so that leaves that out. and so the form is designed to
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find any beneficial treatment that donald trump gets financially. and walter shaub believes that if it's omitted from the form, then donald trump is saying in effect in this filing that he knew nothing about the stormy daniels payment or any kind of reimbursement, was not involved in reimbursement, or if the reimbursement is in there, he is now in effect saying the last form that he filled out was wrong. >> well, let's remember that this entire form is a confection essentially. donald trump, the form that he filed last year conflated all of his business income with personal income. it really isn't discloerks it's a fantasy. we begin with donald trump using this document to create this sort of halo of wealth around him that's not entirely accurate. >> and there is nothing in the form that prevents you from overstating your wealth, which is what seems to be donald trump's objective with the form. >> well, and essentially he has
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taken the revenue that his businesses produce and say that it's his personal income in order to inflate his own bottom line. and he's gotten away with that repeatedly. i think this line item -- i agree with david. it could end up being not as dramatic as we think it is if it's disclosed, then we know he paid her. if it's not disclosed, that will get tested in court, probably by michael avenatti. either way, we're going to wind up knowing at some point whether or not trump actually paid her. >> and malcolm nance, these forms as david points out, were created and conceived in a simpler age, not expecting a multinational businessman with multiple avenues of possible influence to be filling out one of these forms. but the form's design is to try to show us what financial pressures or what financial influences there are affecting the president, and it's not clear at all that that's the full picture that you can get
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from a trump financial disclosure form. >> no. and donald trump structured his entire world this way. i think the mueller probe, which you have to remember, you know, mueller hired 16 of the top financial crimes experts in the united states and prosecutors to go through donald trump's -- to carry out the investigation into donald trump. so that tells you the extent of how he possibly structured his world to try to hide money. and so we've never had a president with this many -- this much involvement with these many shell companies and this many organizations that would channel funds to him. but i have a sneaky suspicion within the next year we're going to find out way more than we ever wanted to know. >> it all comes back to the special prosecutor. we're going to have to take a break here. tim o'brien, thanks for joining us tonight. when we come back, north korea is suddenly threatening to cancel the trump summit. and remember last night when michael avenatti said on this
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when will we find out what happened december 12th, 2016 at trump tower? >> i think soon. >> soon is a week? soon is a month? >> soon is soon. >> and today we learned more
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about what happened at trump tower on december 12th, 2016 during the presidential transition. over the weekend, michael avenatti released video images which he said showed a qatari official in the lobby of trump tower on that day with michael cohen. and today that qatari official confirmed that he was indeed at trump tower on that date. michael avenatti then tweeted today once again we have been proven right. more ugly details to follow. ahmed al rumaihi is the qatari official who was then the head of qatar's investment fund controlling over $100 billion. mr. al rumaihi's admission that he was at trump tower came one day after his company issued a statement about the video images of him that michael avenatti released saying we do not confirm and have no basis to confirm the video. last night here on this program, michael avenatti point to a statement made under oath in a
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civil lawsuit in california in which a business partner of mr. al rumaihi quotes him as having claimed to have purchased or attempted to purchase influence with the trump administration. jeff quatenets who is a friend of steve bannon and who is now suing mr. al rumaihi said mr. al rumaihi requested i set up a meeting between him and the qatari government and steve bannon and to tell steve bannon that qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support. he rejected the offer in response. al rumaihi laughed and then stated to me that i shouldn't be naive, that so many washington politicians take our money and stated do you think flynn turned down our money? tonight the daily mail is reporting new information about that meeting in trump tower on
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december 12th. if true and if the special prosecutor can substantiate this information, then michael cohen is in much, much more trouble than we have previously known. the daily mail quotes a single unnamed kuwaiti source. the kuwaiti source told daily mail that al rumaihi called him and boasted that cohen had asked him for money in exchange for influence in the trump administration. the official said, he said cohen told him to send millions to various members of the trump family. al rumaihi did not do so, the official added. the trump family members were not named. the kuwaiti source said al rumaihi informed him of the alleged bribery attempt so that he would not appear to be going behind kuwait's back in his relationship with the trump administration. "the kuwaiti source claimed al rumaihi told him that cohen
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tried to get the money during a meeting which also included now disgraced former national security adviser michael flynn at trump tower in december 2016. ." al rumaihi's company had no comment for the daily mail about that alleged bribe offer. joining our discussion now, jeremy stahl, senior editor at slate and back with us malcolm nance and david frum. you have been reporting on this and reporting on michael avenatti's revelations about it, and there is a connection here, isn't there, to the steele dossier? >> that's absolutely correct. the connection is that four days before this meeting at trump tower on december 12, 2016, that was confirmed today by the sports company that ahmed al rumaihi runs. there was a multibillion oil deal, a sale from a russian gas
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giant called rosneft to qatar for 19.5% stake in the company. and thatwhat's important here i the steele dossier, it's alleged in the summer of 2016 during meetings in russia, carter page set up an alleged quid pro quo deal in which trump administration officials would eventually promise to undo sanctions against russia in exchange for a stake in this future oil purchase. and the fact that all of this ultimately played out in this way offers some credence, i guess, to some of the essential claims of the steel dossier. >> and david frum, michael avenatti told us that we would soon know more about this meeting that he was talking about last night. >> right. >> and 24 hours later, we know more. >> well, this is one of the moments in this sort of roller coaster of revelation where it's dangerous. you can get over your skis too
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far forward. it may be that this single source daily mail story is wrong. and it may be that the story is correct or correctly reporting what michael cohen said, but that michael cohen was lying about sharing the money that he was trying to extract with the trump family. and the reason you have to be so cautious is that if any of these parts are true, if they do link up, it's as explosive as anything that's been reported. it's not maybe as essential to the character of the republic as the russia collusion story is. i mean, there has been corruption in american politics before there is even corruption in american presidential politics before. but if any of these two imponderables -- both of them turn out to be true, then you've got a story that i don't know that anybody can survive. >> malcolm nance, you took our focus back to the special prosecutor in the last segment, which seems appropriate again here because in this daily mail report tonight, when they're
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talking about michael cohen asking for money, they're saying that's in a meeting that included michael flynn at trump tower. now michael flynn cooperating with the special prosecutor has had to discuss that meeting already presumably with the special prosecutor. >> well, absolutely. it's not a question that he's not cooperating. the question is going to be how little are we actually learning here that the special counsel has known for months? i mean, it's most likely that one of his 16 top financial crime prosecutors already has this tasked out and has a team that has been breaking this story out for months and months. but let me divert a little bit. i lived in the middle east most of my career. i spent seven years, my last seven years living in abu dhabi, which is the beverly hills of the middle east. and this sort of dealing at a national level amongst national leaders and people of influence
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is very, very, very common. and it was very common for just about every other national leader in the world, except for the few in the west, most particularly the president of the united states. these people, they knew american presidents could not be touched at this level. enter donald trump. he is a completely different animal, and he loves this world of lavish living and money. and it would not be outside the realm of possibility that they saw a man that finally would play on their field to where gifts, emoluments, money, bribes would actually work. >> and jeremy, when you pull all these threads of the story together in the daily mail in your reporting and elsewhere, on it so far, if this is substantiated, what you're seeing is a qataris and kuwaitis thinking exactly the way malcolm just described and kind of rushing to get in there to figure out how do we deal with
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these people and who do we have to pay what to deal with these people. >> well, what you have when you talk about such transactional, you know, exchanges is that it's not just about getting something in exchange for something. it can also be about being punished for not fulfilling on something. and the trump administration turned around at the top level, basically president trump, the country's position on qatar in the spring and summer of 2017. and this was going against his own secretary of state. this was going against, you know, years of american policy, and given all of these -- all of these connections, it's an open question still why our policies have shifted in such seemingly random and bizarre ways. >> and jeremy, just to follow that up, one of the points that's in question there is that
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jared kushner, there was the possibility of getting financing, qatar-based financing for a real estate project here in manhattan that did not work out. and there was a question of was the president then punishing them for not helping out his son-in-law? >> that's another of the possible threads here. in the spring of 2017, qatar did not come through on a financial support for kushner's family company. and then in november of this year they did come through. and in the last month or two, the administration position on qatar has changed a great deal. and one thing that i'll note is that there's an element of the deception here that raises the question of what are people trying to hide. you noted that the company involved told me that there was no basis to confirm the video, which, you know, it's a video. we can see it right before our eyes. they stood by that position. i e-mailed them earlier today, and they stood by that. they said that remains the
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company's position, that there is no basis to confirm the video of ahmed al rumaihi, oh, and also they stand by their other statement today that ahmed al rumaihi was in trump tower on december 12, 2016. and michael avenatti posted on twitter there is really no way to square those two positions. but for some reason sports trinity is trying, i guess. >> jeremy stahl, malcolm nance, david frum, thank you all for joining us. really appreciate it. coming up we have breaking news on north korea. when i foud age-related macular degeneration, amd, i wanted to fight back. my doctor and i came up with a plan. it includes preservision. only preservision areds 2 has the exact nutrient formula recommended by the national eye institute to help reduce the risk of progression of moderate to advanced amd. that's why i fight. because it's my vision. preservision. try areds 2 + multivitamin.
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we have breaking news at
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this hour from north korea. it looks like the summit with president trump may be jeopardized. it might not now take place at all. today the president learned from television reports actually that the summit was being threatened already by north korean dictator kim jong-un. north korea canceled high level talks with south korea today, saying that north korea was upset with the military exercises that south korea and the united states were conducting at this time, saying that they were an unnecessary provocation. but tonight north korea has taken a much stronger step in opposition to what the president has been hoping to accomplish in these talks with north korea. north korea is now saying that it rejects a libya-style denuclearization of north korea. and of course denuclearization is the objective clearly stated. north korea is also saying they
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will need to reconsider the summit if washington insists on north korea giving up its nuclear program. and of course that is exactly what the trump administration has been insisting on. north korea is also saying that president trump will fail if that is his objective in the talks with north korea. north korea saying tonight it will never engage in economic trade with the united states in exchange for giving up its nuclear program now. economic trade with the united states is what president trump has been saying recently is in the offing. no other american president has come close to that before. but president trump has been saying it very, very clearly in the expectation that he would get a deal with kim jong-un on nuclear weapons to denuclearize completely. it looks like north korea suddenly tonight is headed in exactly the opposite direction. we're joined now by ned price,
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former senior director and spokesperson for the national security council and a former cia analyst. he is also an msnbc contributor. and malcolm nance is also back with us. ned price, your reaction to these developments tonight? >> lawrence, i think the question before us tonight is this north korea just being north korea, or is this an indication that perhaps our own administration hasn't been fully forthcoming with us about just how willing north korea has been to denuclearize all along. mike pompeo came back from his most recent trip to north korea saying that he had reached a shared understanding with his north korean interlocutors. we heard from john bolton and others that any deal would be complete,irreversible and verifiable. we heard president trump say it would be about getting the nuclear weapons out of north korea, period. we started to get an indication that maybe this was all too good to be true on sunday when that
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same mike pompeo, who previously talked about complete denuclearization and a shared understanding started to move the goalpost on a couple of sunday shows. and he actually said it was about preventing north korea's nuclear program from threatening the united states. and that is far from complete denuclearization. if that is what we are aiming for, that is something that will be wholly unsatisfactory to our closest allies in the region, including south korea and japan. and it could well suggest there are some within this administration that are willing to allow north korea to keep its nuclear weapons. so we could well be seeing north korea responding to some of the divergent messages that they have heard and seen emanating from washington. >> malcolm nance, it seems strange to put it mildly that north korea would suddenly break like this because even if this was their negotiating position, why not just hold on to their negotiating position until they get president trump in a room?
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>> well, first off, north korea, these are the master trolls of asia. they have been doing this to the united states and the west since 1954. so they've got 64 years of learning how to read the united states, how to read the presidents, and then take advantage of propaganda situations when they have them. with donald trump, i'm sure it was relatively easy. we've all been waiting for this trap to spring. but doing it during the full eagle exercises, these max air thunder air defense exercises that we carry out every year gives them propaganda advantage to show that the west -- to their people that the west still has this aggressive posture and these joint exercises, they're not cancelling them. and so in return, we are never going to give up our glorious nuclear weapons, which they have been hawking to their own population forever. it is the core of their national sovereignty now.
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it is not going to happen. like i said, a libyan style denuclearization is another word for regime change to them. so brilliantly played by north korea. it's just a question of whether donald trump rolls over and begs them back to the table. >> let's listen to some of president trump's recent companies, very, very optimistic comments about north korea, including some of the things he said when the three hostages were recently returned. let's listen to these statements. >> kim jong-un was -- he really has been very open. and i think very honorable from everything we're seeing. >> no, i don't think he is playing. it's never gone like this. it's never gone this far. the united states has been played beautifully like a fiddle because you had a different kind of a leader. we're not going to be played, okay. >> i want to thank kim jong-un who really was excellent to these three incredible people.
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>> we are joined by phone now by andrea mitchell, nbc news chief foreign affairs correspondent. andrea, your reaction to these developments tonight. >> well, i think that they were really predictable. some people, including myself were skeptical at first that the president should not have leaped at the chance for this summit when it was first presented by south korea before it was even briefed to him and examined by u.s. intelligence and u.s. diplomatic officials as to how real the kim jong-un offer was. but president moon wanted it as well from south korea. so there is a lot of pressure. and clearly president trump believes very strongly that his legacy could be involved in this, that this is really not only a political ten strike, but something that will cement him as a historic figure in history. you saw the other day at the cabinet room when he was asked about whether he thought he would deserve a nobel peace
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prize. and he said well, a lot of people are saying that, smiling broadly. i was there at andrews air force base overnight when he brought back the prisoners and brought them in an unusual gesture brought them to the cameras. usually prisoners who are just back are put into the medical process and are not displayed publicly. in the past they haven't been. but he is obviously in his elkhart, indiana speech also the next night on thursday night with the vice president campaigning on this. and certainly looking to north korea as a transformative experience, which it certainly would be. but it was always a little suspect that kim jong-un would want this so much that he would be willing to give up his nuclear weapons. history certainly would not dictate that. his father and grandfather wouldn't have. and it was always surprising that he would be this eager for it. now the question is going to be who is more eager for this summit to take place? is he calling donald trump's bluff? i don't see any chance that they
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would back off of the military exercises because the very first thing he was told back in march when the south koreans came to the white house was in fact that the north koreans knew that these exercises were planned, were scheduled, that he was willing to stop testing and was argued that perhaps he had already tested enough and didn't need to test more, but he was going to have this respite in testing, but understood full well that the u.s. and the south koreans would be having their routine spring scheduled giant traini joint training exercises which are defensive in nature and planned for readiness. now he initially retreated on that, and now they seem to be raising the stakes further saying he will not ever agree to denuclearize. >> andrea, of course north korea knew these exercises were going to take place, and even with that knowledge, as you say, they were certainly allowing expectations to build. they were doing nothing to
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counter the increasing expectations of something productive coming from the negotiations. even to the point within the last 24 hours of there being news reports of north korea actually taking steps to destroy some of its facilities that would be used in the development of nuclear weapons to go from that to what north korea has to know are a set of positions that seem to make knott impossible to have a summit, to do that within 24 hours is apparently north korea returning to the unpredictable kind of behavior that we had gotten used to up until the last couple of weeks. >> and it's very clear that we don't know them as well in the last couple of months we've claimed to know them and their plans and their desires. a lot had been written about how the economy is in such failed state that they really do -- like kim jong-un, unlike his
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father and grandfather really wanted to reintegrate north and south and become part of the world, entering the world for the first time in almost 70 years. so the fact of them having been so desirous of the summit was always quite surprising, lawrence. and i don't know if this is another ploy and if we'll end up in singapore in the summit on june 12th as everyone thought we would, but it always just seemed too remarkable that this leader about whom -- for whom survival is everything would follow the lead of gadhafi and give up his nuclear weapons or his nuclear plants. he didn't have weapons. but he had centrifuges and was able to enrich, and gave everything up. and we know what happened to him, or saddam hussein, who did not have a nuclear program at the time of the invasion, as we
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now know, but ended up with the same fate. so it's -- it's very unlikely that he will ever bring to fully denuclearize. most people figured that the status quo and containment and verification would be the best that one could hope for. this could be a retreat to what we would have presumed from kim jong-un. and now the question is how much is donald trump willing to do. is he willing to go singapore and negotiate, knowing that at least right now, north korea is not willing to give up its weapons and that he is going to have to, if he does get some kind of an agreement or some future negotiation settle for something that is similar to the agreements that his predecessors have accepted, which we all know did not work. >> and ned price, i'm sure the control rooms will be cueing up the video soon of mike pompeo's recent statements of stunning confidence in kim jong-un, in his own at this point personal
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relationship with him and what he expected of him. and mike pompeo's publicly stated belief that kim jong-un in effect wanted what we wanted. >> these are very discordant messages coming out of both washington and pyongyang. and some of this i think we can chalk up to the north koreans pushing and prodding and simply just being the north koreans. but some of this i think we have to acknowledge is the result of the dysfunction that is here in our own capital, that's here on pennsylvania avenue. you know, i think donald trump has been too busy leading the nobel peace prize chants for himself to recognize that the united states has not been largely in the driver's seat when it comes to this engagement. this is something that was borne out of south korea's engagement with south korea. president moon's long-standing desires to warm relations with north korea. it happened. and donald trump and his
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administration were essentially told to get in the back seat by the south koreans. we have been in the passenger seat this whole time from the first day that the south korean national security adviser came to the west wing, briefed president trump and his advisers on the invitation, and president trump without even convening his full team, without even giving it much consideration, agreed to meet kim jong-un. so clearly there may also be a game of telephone here, a game of telephone that is predicated on the fact that we are getting some of this information secondhand from our south korean partners rather than getting it directly from our diplomats, many of whom are absent, lawrence. many of whom are still absent. >> president trump is right that no other president has gotten this far with north korea, meaning no other president has extend themselves to the point of actually scheduling a meeting because no other president has reached a set of agreements that could establish the basis for such a meeting, and it turns out tonight the trump administration apparently has not either. we're going to have to squeeze
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in a break here. andrea mitchell, thank you very much for joining us. we're going to be back with much more on this breaking news from north korea tonight. [whistling] hello. give me an hour in tanning room 3. cheers! that's confident. but it's not kayak confident. kayak searches hundreds of travel sites to help me plan the best trip. so i'm more than confident. forgot me goggles. kayak. search one and done. it's just a burst pipe, i could fix (laugh) no. with claim rateguard your rates won't go up just beacuase of a claim.
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we are back with our breaking news coverage of developments from north korea tonight where the north korean regime saying they will not ever consider denuclearization, which is one of the demands of the trump administration for the trump summit. the trump summit with north korea is now threatened tonight
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by north korea. we are joined now by former ambassador christopher hill, who was the ambassador to south korea during the administration of george w. bush. ambassador hill, your reaction to tonight's developments? >> well, put together with the earlier statement today, it suggested the north koreans were becoming increasingly concerned. my understanding is that during pompeo's visit, the north koreans really pushed hard for sanctions relief. and of course the trump administration has wanted to say that the problem of every other effort in the past was that we gave kind of step by step sanctions relief, and they were going to do it differently by giving no sanctions relief and asking the north koreans to do everything first. and i think the north koreans have just decided, no, that's not what they're going to do. >> and malcolm nance, where we stand tonight is that apparently north korea has gotten for the first time in history the
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president of the united states to agree to a meeting in person by the president of the united states with the leader of north korea, and now north korea is on the verge of pulling out of that meeting. and donald trump says that no other president has done what he's done with north korea, and so far that is true. >> well, another thing that's true is that north korea now has operational nuclear weapons, and that changes the dynamic between north korea and the united states strategically. that being said, north korea now has gotten a president of the united states to put them on equal footing as a world nuclear power. and if donald trump is desperate for this meeting -- and i think north korea is banking on that -- they will try to string them along right up to having the summit. they may, in fact, have the summit, and then north korea will probably announce that they have a new strategic rocket missile wing that will become operational and that they will
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never disarm. >> ambassador hill, the north koreans are saying they absolutely will not discuss denuclearization. the trump administration has made it clear that their objective is denuclearization. doesn't that mean, in effect, that these -- that this summit is, in effect, canceled, that it just can't go forward? >> i would agree with that. i think it's looking very unlikely that a summit could go forward on the basis of what the north koreans have just said. now, they may be trying to get from the trump administration some change in our position on sanctions and also something they've sought for a long time, some change in our position of u.s. troops on the korean peninsula. now, earlier today the issue was that they began to -- well, they decided they would not go forward with the south koreans as long as there are exercises
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going on. and that was their usual sort of diss of the south koreans. now it seems to be even more serious, and i would be surprised at this point if june 12th went forward. >> ambassador hill, given your experience with the north koreans, do they know when they are making an impossible demand as it sounds like they're making tonight, and therefore if they're making an impossible demand, it is with the intention of in effect canceling the summit? >> i think they know what they're doing. they've had two meetings with mike pompeo. so i think they knew what they were doing with this announcement. but the question is did we know what we were doing when we suggested that we could get them to do everything without any sanctions relief and to point out that past efforts had foolishly given them some sanctions relief, things like that. so the president was perhaps a little too optimistic that he had them where he wanted them. and i think the consequence is
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that they're saying, no, we're not going to just give up weapons and get nothing from you in sanctions or in security. so i think it has argued for some time that the u.s. needs to kind of table a draft joint communique that sounds like diplomatic inside baseball, but it's basically bread and butter what you do, and then you try to figure out what you agree on. and if it's enough, you go forward with the summit. >> ned price, it seems the north koreans were watching donald trump nominate himself for a nobel prize, along with other republicans that were nominating him for a nobel prize based on his dealings with north korea, and they have decided that they have seen enough. >> well, i think that's right, lawrence. donald trump has done one thing very well. he has handed over all of the leverage to kim jong-un and the north koreans from the laudatory statements about kim jong-un that you played earlier, to his snap decision to hold this meeting with kim jong-un, this summit, even before consulting with his national security team.
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so the real danger here, lawrence, is that donald trump wants this summit more than kim jong-un does. and knowing donald trump, knowing that he wants to be the first president to ever do this, i think that's a real possibility unfortunately. >> that will have to be our last word. ambassador christopher hill, malcolm nance, ned price, thank you for joining us in this discussion. that's tonight's last word. "the 11th hour" with brian williams starts right now. tonight as the president cries foul over the, quote, russian witch hunt, rudy giuliani tells nbc news tonight that the trump and mueller teams are in a holding pattern in their talks toward a sit-down interview. minutes ago, a late-breaking story just posted by "the new york times." plus is it over before it begins? kim jong-un threatens to back out of the much anticipated summit with donald trump. and voters back at the polls today in four states. steve kornacki manning the big board tonight with full results. "the 11th hour" on a tuesday evening begins now.

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